Look at any grocery store line and you will see many shoppers toting their own reusable bags to load their groceries into instead of using the store’s plastic bags. It is an ecologically sound practice that is very popular in our society. Why? Well over recent years there’s been a growing debate across the country regarding the impact of the use of plastic bags. On one side, you have those who argue that plastic bags pollute our cities, waste resources, and harm wildlife. On the other side, you have the counter argument: Plastic bags are efficient, affordable, and have less of an impact on the environment than is commonly reported. Regardless on where you stand on this issue, many local and state governments have considered introducing additional fees or taxes for non-recyclable plastic bags, while some have banned their distribution altogether. Just over a year ago, the Isle of Palms became the first municipality in South Carolina to put a ban on single-use plastic bags. Isle of Palms city council voted unanimously to ban the bags last year. Isle of Palms Mayor Dick Cronin says he hasn’t heard any complaints from island residents since the ban was put into place. Many other municipalities in our area are considering the same ordinance.

As a coastal city, Charleston has some important considerations relating to the usage of plastic bags.  Environmentalist groups argue that plastic bags pose a specific threat to sea turtles who can mistake floating bags for a potential food source…….jellyfish. Also, as plastic bags slowly break down into smaller particles, they enter into the food chain after being consumed by small sea creatures. A study that appeared in the Marine Policy 2016, plastic bags pose one of the greatest impacts to ocean life and thus, from an environmental impact perspective, plastic bags warrant the specific attention they have received from governments and advocates to address their use.

Until plastic bags become scarce, there are some important things to remember when disposing them. Do not put plastic bags in with the rest of your recycling. According to Christina Moskos, the county’s recycling coordinator, plastic bags are one of the main recycling contaminants. When disposed of incorrectly, these bags get tangled in processing equipment and cause shutdowns — it’s a mess. Chances are you can easily drop your bags off at your nearest grocery store to be recycled.